This film has become famous in some circles for being almost the anti-Twilight. I am not here to compare it to Twilight. Instead, I am here to compare it to other vampire films. Frankly, this is the best of it’s kind since Neil Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire.
The film takes place in a suburb of Stockholm in the early 1980s. One 12 year old boy, Oskar, is relentlessly teased by bullies and practices knifing them during the evenings. During one of these practices, he meets his new neighbor, a twelve year old girl named Eli. They eventually become friends and then start to realize their friendship has evolved into something far more (or at least, as far as twelve year olds can take it). Eli, of course, is a vampire and helps Oskar with his bullies while she in on the run from another murder she has committed.
Why does this film succeed where others fail? For one, it looks beautiful. The cinematography is particularly noteworthy and doesn’t look like it was shot on a cell phone. No, dammit, I promised no Twilight comparisons. I will say this though. It is VERY emotive of the classic Hammer Horror films. Plus, the snowfall throughout the film helps capture the mood tremendously. In the same way rain almost becomes a character in film noir, the snow here becomes a character.
But what about the more important elements, such as its take on the state of being a vampire? It is not romanticized. I mentioned Interview with a Vampire due to the treatment on child vampires. What sort of prison would it be like to spend an eternity as a child? “I have been twelve for a very long time” Eli mourns during the film. It helps establish a great loss with the character. To see Eli is to see pain. This is emphasized during a scene in which a woman exposes herself to sunlight than spend eternity as a vampire. This is the sort of curse Anne Rice would discuss. Eternity is boring if you have no one to share it with
With this comes the relationship with Oskar. The sense given is that the relationship is more out of a sense of duty than anything else. Oskar clearly does not understand enough about this relationship, and Eli understands just enough to know that Oskar has no clue what he is doing. The couple never embrace to show love. They are content to tap out the word “kiss” in Morse code. There is a sort of cleanliness compared to that other (sigh) movie. The girl wants nothing more to protect and nurture Oskar. For a relationship like this, that is enough.
I should also point out this is very gory. But this helps…you see vampires actually doing what they are supposed to do. Any sort of metaphor of sex is lost. No special glory is given to the blood drinking scenes. There is no passion…the vampires simply need to eat. Eli appears particularly disgusted by her actions. During a “blood bond” with Oskar, she is unable to control herself and laps up his blood, pausing just enough to tell Oskar to get away. Vampirism has always been about humanities inner passions and animal nature consuming them. That finally comes back here, after vampires being nothing more than sex symbols or creatures to be staked. It works here beautifully.
I know many will go out and get the DVD of Twilight this weekend. Please, though, find time to view this. You will be greatly rewarded.